I decided to check my trail cam after a couple months. Dreading going through the expected 500 pictures of squirrels and antler less blacktail deer. I get to a pic that looks like a bobcat, eyes glowing behind the brush. Just about died when a big mountain lion steps out. I captured three nice pictures of the cat approaching my trail cam.
The trail cam is at a natural blacktail deer sanctuary spot on my home property in La Honda, CA. There is a deer trail leading up from the creek to a little landing where many does and fawns bed and bucks rub their horns on a nice low willow branch. I captured a picture of a mountain lion two years ago but his head was outside of the picture.
Clearly this was a lion but was so disappointing to have his face off camera. Now two years later here is the sequence from January 2019. Was a little concerning to see since he’s headed right up to where my wife Kari has the suburban and she often takes the cover off late at night before trailering her horse the next day.
August 1st is the start of my annual blacktail deer hunt up in Humboldt County at Diamond C Outfitters. Have been talking to Dylan for the past few weeks and we’ve identified an old buck we’ve seen over the years we call ‘Tank’. He has been pretty active in a clearing in a more thickly wooded part of the ranch and Dylan set a blind up a couple weeks before.
I get there uneventfully on a Wednesday and am fortunate it is not the usual August heat. I’m in the blind at 5 pm with a lot of daylight left. I have my comfy chair and am settled in for what I know might be a few days of waiting until I see a good deer and maybe longer to get an opportunity for a good shot.
I’m not in the blind more than thirty minutes when Tank himself appears at the edge of the clearing. I can’t believe it. I have my bow on my knees with an arrow knocked and watch as he seems to poke around but not enter the field. He’s at thirty-five yards. He never offers me a good shot and leaves as quietly as he appeared. I’m still excited to have seen him and know he’s not spooked. Am confident in time I’ll get a shot at.
Within the hour does and fawns appear, a dozen turkeys slowly work their way across the field. A big hare at one point is with the turkeys. Another doe and fawn even bed down not fifteen yards from me. As the evening comes I start to see some young bucks, two different fork horns, and a couple young 3x3s also come through.
At about 8:45 dusk has come and I have another 10 minutes of shooting time left. Then incredibly Tank appears again at the edge of the field. This time he enters the field and is browsing but facing me head on. He seems to move and then stop not presenting a shot. Then two younger bucks appear off to the left and I get ready thinking this may get him to move. I have my bow in my hand when he stops perfectly broadside and am drawing almost as he stops. I’m holding on him steady at only twenty yards, my green pin just behind his shoulder as I release. I hear the smack and the see the green lit knock glide and land on the hill behind. He bolts and traces a semicircle that has his off side right in front of the blind window and I see it round with red.
I text Dylan to tell him I made the shot and think it’s good. I give him the details and wait. Dylan and Clayton drive up about 30 minutes later. When they get to the blind they tell me they passed him lying dead in the creek maybe forty yards from the shot. Am so happy to have made a good shot on such a beautiful buck and for the immediate recovery, not having to sleep wondering if all went well. The shot was perfect, complete pass through the heart. Was my first try with Rage Trypan, they did the job and flew accurately.
So thankful for having met the Carr’s thirteen years before on a management hunt and now having such a great relationship with them and probably the best hunting opportunities in our state.
So excited to learn my California Desert Bighorn Ram picture was included in this year’s California Big Game Digest. Thanks to the Dry Creek Team to have me take a picture ‘with the CA tag on’ to send in. And later I was surprised to see me again in the California section of the May Huntin Fool magazine. Was so happy to see them both!
I recently picked up a used Kahr P380 at my local gun shop. I had ended up with a credit after selling a hunting rifle and decided to give it a try. Have heard great things about them, quality components, match barrel, and excellent useable sights.
Went to Reed’s Indoor Shooting Range in San Jose. My favorite indoor range. I bought some cheap hardball ammo for some initial testing and then three boxes of self-defense ammo for accuracy and function testing. I shot ten rounds of each of the self-defense ammo at a close range of 21 ft or 7 yards.
I started off with the ARX Inceptor which is a new type of bullet. They are a solid injection molded of blended polymer-copper not intended for expansion but rather provide displacement based on the fluting and high velocity. The ARX started off quite well with my first three shots in the X ring. There were no malfunctions. Recoil was quite manageable. Result: 3-9s and 7-10s with 4-x.
Hornady Critical Defense
The Remington Ultimate Defense rounds were a little harder to control than the ARX. They also functioned flawlessly. I seemed to shoot left with them, not sure if it’s me Accuracy was 3-9s and 7-10s with only 1-x. I would feel comfortable using this for self-defense.
Remington Ultimate Defense
The Remington Ultimate Defense was the only brand that had any malfunctions with a single stove pipe. The accuracy was also a little worse than the Hornady with a final result of 1-8, 2-9, 7-10 with 1-x.
I enjoy shooting the little P380, it is surprisingly easy to shoot and pretty accurate. I think I would go with the ARX load. It offers controllable shooting and some impressive results if you watch the tests on their web site.
On June 12th I’m at work when my friend Dylan jokingly texts me he drew two B Zone deer tags again. The CA draw is out. I tell him I’ll check it tonight after work. When I finally do I’m dumbfounded by the mysterious Y next to ‘Desert Bighorn Sheep’. It takes me a long while to believe this could possibly be true. I started hunting late in life, one year after CA started preference points so I have one less than max. Still somehow I had drawn the one random tag for Zone 9 Cady Mountains! Having hunted for fifteen years I still feel like a newbie. I’ve been making up for lost time though taking deer, antelope, elk across the southwest, wild pigs, blacktail bucks in northern California, Pope & Young mule deer in Colorado. I owe my success to the expertise and patience of many wonderful guides and some very fortunate friendships I’ve fostered along the way.
When my disbelief on drawing the tag subsides I get in touch with Dry Creek Outfitters and secure their services for my hunt. I’ll leave on the 27th right after Christmas. Between this time and my hunt I will be laid off from my job, kill my first elk with a bow in Wyoming, and ultimately find a better job that starts right after my sheep hunt! It seems I already have so much to be grateful for.
Preparations begin immediately, what better reason to buy a new rifle!
I frequently consult with Kyler Hamman my favorite California pig guide on all things shooting, reloading, and hunting. He guided me on my first ever big game hunt back in 2002 when I took a great boar. That experience changed my life and ignited my passion for hunting. He suggests I consider a Cooper Backcountry rifle. Ordering one takes six months so I find one on GunBroker. It’s a lightweight rifle at 5 3/4pounds. I decide on .300 Winchester Magnum and top it off with a Leupold VX3i 4.5-14 CDS scope. With Warne Mountain Tech rings and scope it weighs in at exactly 7 pounds.
Kyler also offers the excellent Boar Sight Shooting School with long range set up and I take my rifles to see how they do at distance. He has 8” hanging steel plates at distances from 200 to 600. Hitting 400 yard 8” plate is my goal. All my rifles shoot well and the new Backcountry doesn’t disappoint. I had to use an older turret with a similar trajectory while waiting for the new one and it still rang the bell at 400 yards. I decide it’s good to go. The actual Leupold CDS turret for my California mandated 165 gr Barnes TTSX load arrives only days before I have to leave.
Ever since I started hunting I enjoy collecting and reading all the classics. It’s amusing to read Jack O’Connor in ‘Sheep and Sheep Hunting’ write about his favorite pair of Biesen stocked model 70 Winchester .270 featherweights that come to ‘a perfect 8 pounds’ and would be ‘difficult to improve on’. I wonder what Jack would think about our modern rifles, lightweight hi-tech clothing, laser range finders and turret scopes. I like to think he’d be pleased with our progress and not that we’re a bunch of wusses.
I’m also training physically and trying to not overdo it and risk injury. I alternate days with sessions on a stationary bike and running the hills in my La Honda neighborhood in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As the holidays near I start to get a little paranoid when my wife Kari catches the cold that’s going around. Many colleagues are sick as well. My Christmas spirit this year featured frequent and fervent self serving supplication to the man upstairs in support of my ongoing health. He must have heard my call.
Getting closer the excitement builds. The DF&W orientation in Sacramento is well done and gives me new appreciation for all the hard work these folks have done to allow this hunt to even take place. I didn’t know about the history and their successful efforts to open the hunt in 1989 after 114 years. They do a super job and It gives me some hope that our unfortunate abalone closure won’t be permanent as I also enjoy ab diving and spearfishing.
News of Jason slaying a new state record ram ‘Goliath’ isn’t the first biblical reference I’ll find on this epic adventure. Other pics of rams in social media fuel my excitement. I was anxious to see how my own story would unfold.
Wednesday – December 27th
Finally I leave for the hunt. As I near camp driving Interstate 15 I pass a gauntlet of billboards at regular intervals featuring each of the ten commandments and finally a passage from Revelation 3:20. It feels like I’m being challenged; do I deserve all this?
I arrive at Camp at 3pm and I get the tour. I have a comfortable 2 person tent. There is a spacious canvas mess tent with a wood burning heater where we enjoy Tim’s cooking and assorted delicious homemade cookies and Christmas treats like ‘Crack Balls’ and ‘Magic Bars’. I’m starting to think this may be the one sheep hunt you gain weight.
I show Tim my rifles and gear. Tim offers me use of a walking stick made from a saguaro cactus rib. Some carbon trekking poles have collapsed on hunters giving them a spill so I decide to give it a try. It’s strong and extremely light. The stick was perfect for negotiating loose rock on steep hills or as a bino monopod in the field. Later on in the hunt I notice a well worn inscription ‘Joshua 1:9’ I don’t know my bible verses but in this best of all worlds we live in it’s no further than my phone. The passage includes:
“Be strong and corageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”
A great theme for any hunt and as I read it I can’t help but hear Tim’s voice. He leads us in a brief blessing before dinner each night and in the morning before we all head out. I really appreciate Tim sharing his words of faith with us and he does so with grace and humility.
Our team are: Tim Mercier, Cliff St. Martin, Kirk ‘Sawyer’, Tom ‘Tanto’, his son Luke, and Ben ‘Grizzly’ from Arizona. As night falls they each return to from scouting and compare notes. Several rams are discussed with names like the ‘Broken horn ram’, ‘Juicy’, and the ‘Short horn ram’ None are quite the class of ram we’re looking for.
Thursday – December 28th
Our first morning we leave at 6 am with an hour drive out to a point for glassing. We spend all day glassing the opposite mountain side. It is bitter cold in the mornings. I’m pretty sure I had every layer of Kuiu gear I own on at one time. If there is one thing I should have done differently it is to buy or borrow 15 power binoculars and a tripod. My early efforts free hand glassing with my ten power Leica’s could best be described as morale support. Eventually I’m startled when what I think is a sheep actually stands up! I do get better at it and it starts to get fun.
Friday – December 29th
We leave camp in separate trucks driving for about an hour until we park and all pile into Tom’s lighter rig to make it up a steep sand dune. This necessity makes for some entertaining discussion about the relative merits of Dodge vs Ford trucks. Having arrived in my Toyota FJ Cruiser I elect to stay out of it. We leave the truck near some hills they call the three sisters.
Not far in we spot 2 legal rams bedded in parallel one above the other both facing left. They look like two sentinels guarding the entrance to their world and we give them a wide berth so as not to spook what giants might lurk behind.
We trudge through sand dunes with our wooden walking staff’s like sojourning desert pilgrims. The dunes are periodically pocked with some sort of rodent holes and every now and then your foot abruptly sinks way down giving you a stiff jolt to your back or knee. I try and follow Cliff through this mine field hoping he’ll clear my way but I seem to still hit just as many holes as he does. It’s alternatively annoying and comical as we each hit one hole after another.
On our long hikes I appreciated having the light Cooper Backcountry rifle and frequently forget it’s attached to my day pack until I try and sit down with it on. Soon Cliff informs me we are pinned down on a rocky hill between other sheep. We spend a long day on a hill covered with loose sharp jagged rocks trying not to blow a good ram out of the country. On our way out we all join up and see several rams put on a great show for us on the distant skyline. In silhouette they work a cactus barrel with their horns, butting it open, pawing at it, fighting over it. It’s a beautiful show.
Saturday – December 30th
We make the same drive in and this time we’re seeing rams again but nothing big. Cliff decides to go scout it out solo and see what’s behind the mountain and try not to spook anything. I stay glassing with Ben. This time i’m finally finding some sheep with my Geovids which makes it a little more exciting. I proudly announce to Ben as he returns from natures call that a ram has stood up. Just doing my part. Later in the day a single bee finds a drop of water on my drinking tube and pretty soon I have all kinds of bees hovering around me. Luckily the only plague I must endure. I manage to ignore them and after tucking my drinking tube in my pack they eventually move on. Again, as the evening comes more rams are seen on the skyline. Cliff returns and never saw any better rams. We appear to be done with this part of the country.
The rocks here often contain beautiful pieces of quartz crystals and agate. An earlier hunter even found an intact spear point. During down time many of us scour our rocky surroundings. My sole sorry find is a modern green sunglass lens. It reminded me of my first deep scuba dive off the coast of Monterey. As we descended into the mysterious dark deep and settled into the soft sea floor at 130 feet the mystique was broken when my dive light illumnates a crushed Coke can and Hot Wheels truck. While the desert is mostly pristine, more than one sparkling rock in the distance I’m told were metallic party balloons released and all seem to come to the desert to die. In the heights and depths of my adventures I’ve witnessed breathtaking beauty and all too frequent signs of human disregard. Hunters need to be recognized for their defense of our environment and the habitat of the game we cherish. No amount of millenia will elevate the regard for stuff we’re presently leaving behind to that of a clovis point.
Saturday night at dinner we’re graced with a visitor. A kangaroo rat brazenly enters the mess tent to check out the bounty inside. Calling him a rat seems uncharitable as he’s an adorable egg shaped fur ball with cartoon eyes, clown feet, and a leonine tufted tail. I dub him ‘Captain Kangaroo’ Surely our luck must now change. He seems pretty comfortable in our tent and Luke courageously allows the good Captain to walk on his open palm to retrieve some nuts. He would get his fill and speed out to store them somewhere and then be back again. Of course there’s a fine line between bravery and having to explain to someone at the ER window why you need rabies shots.
New Year’s Eve
We decide to head to another spot were another group of rams had been seen before. We drive to a plateau with a lonely old rod iron fenced grave. The crude wooden head board displays T-Bone Albright – railroad man 1933. Another rock pile grave with cross beside him is perhaps his wife.
We are seeing rams right off. There is a group of ten only a mile away on Cave Mountain. Ben, Cliff and I all sit and look through our binoculars and spotting scopes. There are two good ones in the bunch. They are close enough I can see them pretty well with my Leica’s and better yet with a spotting scope Cliff lent me. I start to get pretty interested in one. He’s a little bit broomed on the right side but seems heavy and wide. There is another pretty good looking one. After much discussion Cliff advises that he might go mid 160’s depending on his bases. Cliff also reminds me that he’ll be the only California Desert Ram I take in my life. I still think he looks great so we decide to take a closer look.
We drive down off from the plateau and get to the base of Cave Mountain. We hike in very slowly stopping often looking for sheep as not to get busted and blow out the rams. Ben leaves us for another vantage point and Cliff and I proceed to a ridge where we think we’ll see the rams. At this point they have moved off leaving a lone ewe on the other side. We backtrack to come up another way and get the wind on our side. We have a long trek up a gradual rocky ridge and finally we are at a point we think we’ll see them. Cliff slowly advances to see and sure enough they are there. I follow him slowly until we find a nice flat rock for me to use as a rest. We put my pack on it and slide my gun up. Additional pads are produced to try and get me comfortable in the jagged rocks. Cliff ranges them at 350 exactly on a rocky hill top in the distance. After looking at the rams Ben suggests the other ram is much better and cleaner and after getting a look up close I quickly agree.
I’m on him bedded at 350 yards trying to steady my gun when they all just bolt upright and start cavorting down the hill right to us like someone just rang a dinner bell. I had feared when we peaked over the ridge they would all alert and I would have an urgent distant shot. Now they are closing the distance to us fast. Cliff says 260 and I’m out of the scope adjusting my turret. Now I’m trying to get on the right ram again. Cliff tells me he’s rubbing a bush with his horns. I finally locate him. So glad to have Cliff by my side, calm and cool giving me all the necessary info. Soon they are all just walking and feeding together, I wait as a small ram stands behind. I’m on him and as soon as he’s clear I’m squeezing and boom he’s hit. My shot was good and took him in the right shoulder. He stands a little longer than I like so I put in another slightly higher and he’s down.
I can’t believe it. I’ve shot my Desert Bighorn. So happy to have taken a beautiful mature ram with an exciting stalk and clean shots. He’s down in a sandy wash. I get up to him and there is no disappointment, he looks perfect, holding his heavy horns. I can’t believe my good fortune to have drawn this tag and been able to spend the past five days with such a fun group of hunters. The rest of the crew eventually join up and Tim says some touching words of thanks. I echo his sentiments and thank the Lord and our team. So grateful to everyone that helped me make this happen. Night falls as we head back to camp and New Years eve fireworks are bursting colors in the distant horizon. This hunt truly exceeded some very high expectations. I can only hope I’ll draw Desert Sheep once more in another state and share this experience again with Tim, Cliff, and the great Dry Creek team.
Cooper Backcountry lightweight rifle in .300 winchester magnum
Preparing for my upcoming CA Desert Bighorn Sheep I bought a Cooper Backcountry lightweight rifle in .300 winchester magnum. My beautiful custom classic in .270 shot so well I was confident they could make a light weight and accurate rifle. The rifle is 5 3/4 pounds! Should serve me well on any sheep hunts. I topped it with my go to Leupold 4.5-14×40 scope with the compensation drop (CDS) turret system. The hunt requires using non-lead bullets so I bought Hornady Superformance GMX and Barnes TTSX. The fast Hornady rounds are slated at 3260 so was hopeful they would shoot well. My first chance to sight it in at Los Altos and while they looked promising they just did not cooperate. I cleaned it well saturday night and returned Sunday to try the Barnes loads. My first group was an inch. Second group one ragged hole. My six 3 shot groups averaged 7/8″ so happy it is shooting them well!
Cooper test target and my target behind (Barnes TTSX)
Next step is attending Kyler Hamann’s ‘Boar Sight Shooting School‘ Kyler was the guide on my first hunt ever in 2002 when I took a great trophy wild boar. He has an incredible set up with hanging 8″ steel plates at distances out to 600 yards to replicate ethical shots on game. He even has a 30″ plate at 1000. I brought all five of my rifles dialed in and hoping to see them shine at distances I might reasonably take shots at game. For the Sheep hunt the goal is to be able to shoot 400 yards. The guides at Dry Creek say most shots are around 200 but want to be ready. I did not have time to have a turret made for the Backcountry so I had to fish one out of my bag that looked close. My 30.06 for Hornady 150 SST looked close all out to 400 where it drops about an inch more. So meet Kyler at the gate and follow him to the bench and start off with the Cooper. Just resting it on bags it rings the 300 plate no problem. After a couple shots on it the plate is hung up. He also has a board next to it for a group. I shoot a group at 300 as he watches through the spotting scope. It’s about 1.5″ at 300 yards. So time to try the 400. I hit the 400. Ask him to video and see if I can do it again. So happy to hear the distant ting and know I just put a round into 8″ vital zone of a Desert Bighorn. (volume up to hear the hit)
This is a great day and I shoot all five of my rifles. The two the really did well are my Remington custom rifle. This rifle was the original bargain basement ADL I took that pig with in 2002 with a Simmons 8 point scope and factory trigger. Since completely customized. It had no problem hitting the 400 and even the 500 yard plate. I didn’t try the Backcountry at 500 knowing that turret would be off. My other Cooper with the beautiful presentation grade stock has been sitting in my safe for seven years. It also hit the 500 yard plate! I’m a Cooper believer.
300 yard group with Cooper BackCountry (shot in black .270)
After finishing shooting all my rifles we decided to try to hit the 1000 yard plate with my Remington. My dial only goes to 600 and we could not even get it to the point we could correct from. Kyler asked me if I wanted to try his Cooper XLR Long Range rifle. Also in .300 win mag. Sure why not. He has it topped with a great NightForce scope. My first shot is near target and Kyler makes corrections on the dial. I have a clear image and my second shot is a hit. And my third shot hits again! Incredible to be making accurate shots at 1000 yards. That is a long way. Kyler tells me I hit it, and near center, all before I even hear the sound. I finish up by putting a bipod on the Backcountry to prep for hunting pigs at sunset. It should be fine at hunting distances. I lay down and hit the 225 plate, the 250 plate, and then the 225 again. Call myself ready. Well we saw a couple small pigs but not the boar I was hoping for. My freezers are full of elk and deer so we called it a night!
Kyler’s Cooper XLR Long Range in .300wm
I have a Cooper Jackson Excaliber rifle on the way in .300 Weatherby. I’ll be bringing that to the range when it’s all sighted in with turret. I will definitely come back again one more time before the Cady Mountains sheep hunt which starts right after Christmas.
Back to the Diamond C for my second CA blacktail hunt of the year. Not really looking for anything specific just out for a fun hunt and see what we can see. Friday night we’re out looking in the evening. Not long we see a big bobcat prowling the golden hills. We leave him be and keep looking. At one point between two distant stands of oaks a buck is silhouetted broadside on the horizon. He’s too small to chase but makes a beautiful picture. As the sun begins to set I’m thinking tonight is a wrap but Dylan spots a buck in the distance. It’s an old 4×3 that we’ve been looking for he’s in a great spot for us to make a stalk. So just like that we are switched on and that time I savor and so look forward to, between spotting a buck we want and making a stalk and hopefully taking a shot is now on. We grab our packs and are off towards a rising hill that we think will give us the vantage point to maybe make a shot. We get close and get low, scoot up to the edge. Dylan’s not seeing him. We keep looking and soon Dylan spots him. I lower my bi-pod legs and scoot my rifle forward. Dylan gives me the range 355 yards. I’m on him and turn up my scope but he’s moving. I’m tracking him and he is walking when Dylan makes some whistling sounds and he stops. I start to make the shot but realize my safety is on. I slowly click it off an now he’s on the move again. Dylan tries it again and when he stops I’m on him. The sun is setting behind us and he appears in my scope in an orange glow. He’s quartering too and I have a perfect hold on his body and squeeze off the shot. I see him collapse instantly even through the scope. My customer Remington ADL in .270 does the trick with the Barnes 130 TTSX bullet. The VX6 at 18 power with a nice red dot lit at the reticle made it easy to hold and I find my shot hit perfectly. Dylan’s son Clayton and his girlfriend Elizabeth come join us on the Rhino quad to aid in the recovery. By the time they arrive the sun has set and soon the large full moon rises to light our way. This buck isn’t the biggest but this kind of spot and stalk and shot is my favorite way to rifle hunt blacktail. He is a great old buck with a lot of character. Such a great time hunting with Dylan and the Carr family.
Dylan Carr and the scene of my 355 yard shot to my blacktail buck
Have had so much fun fishing with my brother Tim over the years but catching a bass has completely eluded me. We’ve killed it on trout, catfish, kokanee, and salmon but I was yet to ever land a bass. Well our last fishing trip his boat was temporarily out of commission so we decided to go old school and rent an electric motor powered small row boat and try Lake Chabot. We trolled around for trout but no luck so we went off into a little offshoot and tried casting for bass near some likely spots. Eventually we decided to try an area bounded by reeds that was almost a perfect box. We anchored and not long after casting to the periphery Tim landed a little bass. Well after that we proceeded to hook seven bass and landed six. I somehow got my big one off just as we were trying to net it.
Was another great time with Tim and now I can say I can add large mouth bass to my fishing resume!
While at the Boone & Crockett Big Game awards I shared a breakfast table with Randy Newberg. While telling him about all my preference points and no idea how to best use them he recommended Wagonhound in WY for an archery elk hunt. Taking him up on it I drew the Unit 7 tag and eagerly awaited my hunt. Spent a great deal of time preparing both physically and at the archery range. Made the 2 day trip out by car to retrieve the meat if successful. I arrived Sunday and my guide Cougar Sanchez and Eric Mares went out that night. We climbed some steep hills and he would occasionally bugle to see if we could pin point a bull. I was admiring two 3×3 mule deer with my binos when Cougar says, one’s coming get ready! I get with Eric down in a strand of timber and wait. Soon I see antler tips emerge over the hill in front of us and soon a bull elk is standing in front of me at 40 yards. No shot but it is so exciting and happens just like you have heard it might. He’s with a cow and as they circle around they wind us and take off. This is pretty encouraging for the week ahead.
Lodge at Wagonhound Outfitters
The next day we have breakfast at 4:45 and are off to hunt by 5:30 arriving in the elk woods around first light. Each morning usually involves a challenging hike up some steep hills but I find I can stick with my 20 something guides and get to the top with just an accelerated heart rate. This first day finds another bull elk coming and he emerges off to our side at 42 yards. He stops broadside and I let loose, my arrow flies above his back. I used the orange 60 pin instead of my 40! Pretty rattled but glad not to have wounded him. We regroup and decide to spend lunch back at the lodge. Monday night is another incredible experience. We see a monster on the opposite side of the mountains but he’s not coming. We hike up and then down into a narrow draw. This ends up being a great spot as first a bull comes from the wrong side and winds us. Then two raghorns emerge from the upwind side and proceed to feed within 15 yards of Eric and I who stay motionless. Hope to get his video of that. Soon after a 5×5 comes in within 20, I could shoot but he’s too small. We head back down and now the big bull starts coming. He even walks right by where we were set up earlier but now the wind is wrong and he never comes in. After that four big bulls way up top in some aspens start coming to us. I can’t believe it as they are so far off yet with my binos I see one actually trotting down the mountain. We set up and first it’s raghorns again and some cows with the big one behind a large group of trees. We hear him raking but he doesn’t come in time before the elk get behind and wind us.
Tuesday morning starts out the same. A steep hike up the mountain until we emerge into some sparce timber. We set up again as there are bugles in the distance. Eric is right behind me with Cougar set up 40 yards back this time with a Montana Decoy cow. Soon we hear a bull coming but he passes across 50-60 yards in front of us. Eric and I decide to move forward 40 yards. We get settled and soon that big bull comes back to us. He’s facing us with a cow and soon spooks off. I’m thinking maybe this spot is now blown but Eric tells me to get ready, ‘some are coming fast’. He’s not kidding. It sounds like a stampede the crashing coming close and I draw as two bulls literally crash into the woods and stop right next to us. They are both good bulls. I try to shoot the closest one and he spooks a little and I shoot behind him. Amazingly they don’t bolt off. I knock another arrow. Now they are a little behind us. I’m able to draw and rotate my body and shoot the rear one at only 25 yards. My green nockturnal lights up perfectly behind the crease and he runs off. I can’t believe it. We both think it’s a perfect shot. Deep penetration. We just sit still and for the next 45 minutes the show continues. Not long after my shot at 7:17am another bull comes in to my left with a cow. We just sit and video with our phones.
After 45 minutes we decide to look for blood. He left with my arrow but we soon find a good blood trail. After about 75 yards we crest a rise and see him laying in the distance. I am overjoyed, my first bull elk with a great shot and clean kill. We take lots of pictures and then Cougar and Eric skin and quarter him out. They are intent on packing him out in one trip which seems nuts to me but to their credit we somehow do it. It’s about a mile down to a road that we can bring the truck to. We rest every 100 yards or so with them doing the lion’s share and me with only a shoulder precariously on the bow holder of my day pack.
Scene of my 2017 WY archery elk
We get my elk meet back and hanging in the Wagonhound cooler within hours. Am so pleased as getting the meat is a big part of the experience for me and I know it will be perfect. Many times in archery if the shot is not perfect you need to leave the animal overnight which would have made a big difference for the meat. Am so pleased with this experience, greatful for Randy’s advice, all the great help from Wayne and Roger at Archery Only, without them I would not be a bow hunter. All the people at Wagonhoud. I leave Thursday morning and spend the night in Wendhover, NV. Up early and back to Los Gatos Meats & Smokehouse by 3pm. They know me well there and wrap up the tenderloins for me to cook that night. So grateful for another incredible hunting first. Now turning my attention back to rifles and prep for my California Desert Sheep hunt in December.
Time for my annual Blacktail hunt with Dylan Carr. Had been practicing with the bow every night in hopes of taking a huge buck from a blind again. Well got laid off from work the day before I left so plans adjusted to management buck to be thrifty in case my job search goes longer than planned. Part of me hoping it doesn’t happen too quickly. Still Dylan had offered a try at Q-Tip a huge 5×4 so a little disappointed to let that chance go. Still hunting a management buck is often much more fun. Have been sighting in my rifles to prep for my Sheep hunt and selected the Sako 30.06 as the most reliable. It’s still set up for lead rounds which I can use in B Zone, 150gr SST Hornady Superformance.
I get to Dylan’s mid day Thursday. Alan is there and had taken the big 3×3 “Lopper” the night before. They weren’t sure of the shot and left him overnight. He was done but the coyotes got to him first ruining the cape. I end up donating mine for his mount. That night cruising we see a group with some huge bucks. Wart Head is the star along with Inline and Skyscraper a super tall 3×3. So cool to see these bucks out and about. Up by the gate we find a buck people had been telling Dylan about. He’s a 4×4 with kickers on both sides. I am sorely tempted to shoot him but keep to my plan and budget.
The next morning we are out again. It is so nice and cool for July. Wearing a light jacket even. Fog down below so we head up top. It’s not long until Dylan spots a buck feeding out on one of the golden hills in the distance. He puts the spotting scope on him and says he is a management buck and a good shooter. Almost a 3×3 but older buck. We decide to make a stalk on him. We back the truck out a ways so we can leave under cover and make our way down the hill. As we’re closing he’s eventually staring our way and we think he’s busted us. We decide we really can’t go one more ridge and set up by a dead three that gives us some cover. The range is 370 yards. I settle in and dial my turret. Set to 14 power I have a great view and am on him. He’s facing me so I wait and wait for him to turn. Finally he’s showing a lot of body and I start to squeeze holding right on him. At the shot I get the ‘who’s your daddy’ from Dylan and know he’s down at the shot. Those SSTs really drop em, kind of like the ballistic tips. We find him dead right there and the shot is perfect. Alan takes the truck to the road below and we have a fairly easy quarter mile drag at least mostly down hill.
We put him on the gambel and he weighs 130. We recover my bullet from just inside the hide and Clayton finds the separated lead core while skinning him. I’m super happy with him and glad to have tried a longer shot in prep for the sheep hunt. 370 is my farthest shot on a deer to date. Hopefully I’ll get a great new job in a few months and be back for a giant Blacktail next time.